Ranjona Banerji​: Cricket back to centrestage… but for all the wrong reasons

20 Jun,2017

​By ​​Ranjona Banerji


India played a cricket match. India lost a cricket match. And in between, one would have thought that India fought a war, India got mauled by the enemy, that India lost all standing in the world, that India’s best cricketers were a bunch of useless traitors who did this purposely just to either: a) Upset television news channels or b) Give television news channels some work or c) both.

I’ll grant you that this was not just any cricket match. It was an India-Pakistan final in the Champions Trophy where India went in as the sureshots and Pakistan as the underdogs. Also, that the match itself had been fraught with hysteria mainly caused and experienced by the news channels themselves. Some would not discuss the results out of patriotism, some as we discussed last time, found technical reasons why patriotism applies in some cases and not others and some decided that anything that can be used to whip up jingoism was fodder for their gigantic nationalist maws.

I’ll also grant you that cricket has been dogged by allegations of match-fixing, spot-fixing and worse since that sad year of 2000. And that obviously any collapse like India’s on Sunday night has to be analysed, dissected and studied.

But much as every Indian man imagines he is the world’s most talented cricketer in waiting, the post-mortem is perhaps best left to cricketers, cricket coaches, cricket analysts and so on. Not to the coroner, not to self-proclaimed RAW agents, not to politicians and not to the all-purpose news anchor. Flipping through channels, I heard on Times Now that the BCCI et cetera were to blame for this loss and one guest saying that cricketers should not be blamed and the anchor interrupting saying, “Don’t you think the cricketers…” Elsewhere, there were hashtags that ran “Pakistan Army mocks India…”

In the background of the studios you could almost hear eager hungry angry peasants setting up the guillotine for the aristos to come home…

On the internet, vicious, hateful and lying as ever, the discussion was about traitorous Indian Muslims supporting Pakistan, filled with fake pictures and videos.

It was interesting in a way to have cricket back to centrestage but for all the wrong reasons of course.


It was not interesting to have no other news centrestage except the BJP’s candidate for the next President of India, the current governor of Bihar, Ramnath Kovind. It says nothing for all our political commentators, print, web and television, that they had no clue about what was going on in the minds of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. (O dear, I should have switched the names around, no? Never mind).

We all heard all sorts of names from LK Advani to Sushma Swaraj to Narayana Moorthy to Draupadi Murmu, currently governor of Jharkhand. Instead we have a quiet winner whom no one had heard of even though he is governor of Bihar and everyone is scrambling to learn about. Now we know that apart from being a governor, he is a lawyer and a Dalit. However he is also a proper Sangh Parivar person, who has not pushed for Dalit rights or for anything at all.

It says very sad things about all our colleagues who work in politics that they could not pick up a single murmur about Kovind. The closest I heard was on Rajya Sabha TV over the weekend when some Delhi journalists suggested that the BJP would pick a BJP person. As indeed, they did.

Before anyone said that however we had to go through endless talk about whether Modi would have a “Vajpayee moment” blah blah. Surely even to Delhi journalists it should be clear that Modi only has “Modi moments”.


As a result, who knows what’s been happening to farmers in India. Their boring problems of pricing and loans can hardly trump a defeat in cricket and an unknown man who is likely to become president of India.


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